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Municipalities and business: global players

Rüdiger Robert

Municipalities and business: global players

Notes
References

Summary:
Globalization signifies a fundamentally new system of spatial order and a progressive shift of responsibilities and emphasis between the public and private sectors. Against this backdrop, the article asks whether municipalities still have any leverage for independent activity and decision-making against major international corporations. The article concludes that the interests of cities and city regions are by no means principally subordinate to those of global players. Rather, municipalities and transnational companies alike are subject to the same process of global transformation. This affinity leads to common interests as well as conflicts, despite the distance remaining between local government and the private sector. Municipalities are called to collaborate with global players whenever their interests overlap. This involves consciously establishing innovation networks which permit the formation of cluster-specific local advantages in the context of world-wide competition.

In today's capitalist market economies, local government and private business, municipalities and global players, are still separate worlds which, when they interact, usually require the services of mediators. The frequency of such interaction is increasing. This is due to the globalization of the world economy and the changing role of the state amid the growing significance of cities and urban regions (Fürst 2003, p. 441).

The friction between local government and the private sector is astonishing when one considers that, in a knowledge and service society such as Germany with a highly specialized division of labour, their mutual dependence is greater than ever. What causes this friction? The confrontation is based on diverging objectives and maxims:

  • One of local government's core tasks is to supply public services. These are also referred to as basic provisions. They encompass social, cultural and economic services. Business, on the other hand, generates human activity to pool scarce resources - labour, land, capital and know-how - with the systematic intention of producing goods and services.
  • Local government acts on the basis of the authority vested in it. In its executive capacity it is responsible for all areas except the passing of generally binding rules, the settling of litigation and the imposition of punishments. In contrast, business is essentially privately organized. It therefore belongs to the sphere of society which is not permanently accountable to the general public, i.e. the electorate.
  • Local government functions as a monopoly. This is true in terms of both its relevance and the scope of its activity. Ideally, local government practises majority decision-making in line with the principles of the constitution. Business, however, is dominated by the concept of competition, which through supply and demand coordinates and controls the relationship between producers and consumers.
  • Local government's raison d'être is the performance of general social tasks. Profit-making is seldom a consideration. The function of business, however, is to supply goods and services, primarily with the intention of making a profit. Private interests, a concept alien to local government, are at the fore.

Despite the tendency of local government to pursue activities which increasingly resemble those of a private entity, and despite increasing bureaucratization within larger concerns, the friction between the two camps has not been relieved. Even the much-extolled "new public management" municipal strategy (Frey 2004, p. 75 ff.) and the (re)discovery of public private partnerships have done nothing to change the situation. Nevertheless, cities and urban regions continue to thrive through their enterprises, which in turn depend on their local (i.e. municipal) surroundings (Thränhardt 2004, p. 211). This relationship is rightly described as a symbiosis.

A great many municipalities owe their very existence and their growth to the creation and prosperity of individual enterprises. In equal measure, although municipalities do not constitute a protective casing around these companies, they do at least offer them locations and space in which to flourish. For example, the history of the city of Essen is closely linked to the discovery and extraction of anthracite and the production of cast steel. The economic success of Alfred Krupp in the mid-19th century established Essen as the shining light of the coal and steel industry. In 1864 around 22% of the city's population were employed in Krupp's cast steel works (Essen Geschichte, no date). The connection between the growth of the city of Wolfsburg and the rise of the Volkswagen automobile manufacturer is even stronger. The city was singled out for car production when the company was founded in 1938. Today Volkswagen is not only the primary source of income for well over 50% of Wolfsburg's private households, but also dictates the municipality's finances (Tessin, no date, p. 1 f.). One further example is Erlangen, which only grew in significance after the Second World War through the arrival of Siemens-Schuckert-Werke AG and has retained its importance to the present day. Siemens employs approximately 21,500 wage earners and salaried employees in the city out of a total of around 85,000. Erlangen has thus become the second largest base for one of the top German global players (www.erlangen.de).

Nevertheless, the relationship between municipalities and enterprises has changed considerably in the past decades as a result of globalization. This complex process is based on the concept of time-space compression, and a key element is the development of an integrated global economy concentrated in the Western Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific triad (Enquête Commission 2002, p. 120): "One of the central features of the current phase is the rise of information technology and the increase in mobility and liquidity of capital this entails" (Sassen 2001, p. 10).

In addition, global trade has increased at a far higher rate than the global national product. Consequently, the extent to which business activities in one part of the world are affecting societies and crisis areas in other regions is growing. This particularly applies to competition, which drives the global economy. Companies are now required to adjust to new markets and to develop strategies which frequently extend beyond their traditional local, regional and national catchment areas. Also affected are small and medium-sized enterprises which encounter specific problems accessing knowledge and information and obtaining liable equity capital and loans at fair rates. In the era of globalization, every local company and every product manufactured in a municipality is under pressure to compete worldwide. At the same time, the range of general business activity is broadening and time scales are shrinking. This boosts opportunities for individual firms, but also increases risks.

"This development has hit distribution more and more in the past decades. Traditional corner shops are a thing of the past in the United States and much of Europe, and they are being squeezed out in Japan too (Thränhardt 2004, p. 205).

This poses serious questions for municipalities as well as nation states, because the multiple, geographically independent range of social circles, communication networks, market relations and lifestyles interlink areas previously separated by spatial boundaries (Beck, 1997, p. 18). Two trends are particularly worth highlighting:

  • A new system of spatial order is emerging. For cities and urban regions to survive politically, socially and economically, they must create an attractive environment for potential investors. The chance for municipalities lies in the fact that many resources necessary for global business activities have turned out to be stationary rather than hypermobile (Sassen, 2001, p. 18).
  • Responsibilities and emphasis are shifting between the public and private sectors, between government and business. Institutional structures and decision-making processes play just as great a role here as participants' changing interests, objectives, resources and leverage for action.

The claim that territorial sub-systems are increasingly capable of self-governance is undermined by the fact that municipalities are unable to adapt their population, infrastructure and environment at will to the changing demands of globalization. While companies have no option but to react quickly and flexibly to international competition, the establishment and reorganization of business-friendly clusters and networks require time-consuming efforts from municipalities which devour extensive resources. These often come from outside sources since they are unavailable locally. Friction between local government and the private sector once again comes to the fore. This frequently prompts the conclusion that the worldwide expansion of capitalism is actually downgrading rather than upgrading municipalities. The impression of functionalism in this respect is hard to shake off (Wissen 2001, p. 79). Globalization critics even point to direct exploitation of inhabitants' social, economic and environmental quality of life in entire cities and urban regions (Positionspapier, no date, p. 1).

Global players pose a particular challenge to municipalities, because they compel cities and urban regions to compensate for the spatial dispersion of manufacturing capacities by centralizing their own control and management capacity wherever possible. This is an indication of the specific nature of transnationally active enterprises. Frequently, although not always, such companies are industrial heavyweights, something no period of history has ever lacked. They were always part public, part private enterprises, as illustrated by the history of the German railway and postal services. It would be wrong to assume that any company employing a large number of workers and active in different countries automatically qualifies as a global player. Enterprises are only considered to be global players if their operations really do span the globe and if they think and act in relation to the world market with regard to efficiency, profits, know-how and deployment of personnel, rather than in local and regional terms. As the minimum requirement, such a company must be represented in Asia, America and Europe. Drawing on Bernd A. Siehler (1999) and the Oxford Dictionary, we can venture the following definition: "A global player is one who is skilful and practised in his business and regards the whole world as his playing field."

The contrast between global players and municipalities is marked. Cities and urban regions should also think globally, but can only act locally. Nevertheless, their function and strength lies in unlocking, within their territorial boundaries, the capacity for worldwide operation, coordination and control inherent in new information technology and in the power wielded by transnational companies (Sassen, 2001, p. 18). Fulfilment of this task is hampered by global players, which due to their high turnover and profits and the size of their workforces often have the clout to prevent municipalities from exercising the authority vested in them. Consequently, the focus of municipalities' competence is shifting more towards creating opportunities to influence social trends on their doorsteps through collective action. In other words, new governance structures are required within local government which are based on "cooperation between public and private stakeholders but which also allow hierarchical regulation and policy competition", that is, "horizontal coordination between a varying group of participants" (Benz 2001, p. 55).

The magnitude of the task facing municipalities also derives from the extraordinary increase in the number of global players. Between 1970 and 1998, and accounting for subsidiaries, the figure leapt from 7,000 to 449,000. Cross-border mergers have played a central role in this development. "Between 1990 and 1999 the number of mergers around the world rose from 9,000 to nearly 25,000, and their value increased from 290 to 2,380 billion US dollars" (Enquête Commission 2002, p. 160).

Most global players are based in the U.S. and Japan. In 2003, 17 of the world's 50 top industrial companies (in terms of turnover) had their headquarters in the USA, while 11 were based in Japan (Giersberg 2004 b, U 7). Eight were from Germany. In addition, numerous banks and trading, service and insurance companies had (and still have) their headquarters in Germany.

It is conspicuous that publicly organized companies in Germany have also undergone a far-reaching process of transformation. They have been put under pressure to compete internationally, in some cases have recorded massive growth and - as can be seen in the development of regional banks and energy providers, for example - increasingly loosened the straitjacket put on them by the federal government, the Länder and the municipalities. Municipalities have actively contributed to this process on many occasions. Consequently, companies primarily entrusted with providing basic public services have frequently developed into global players which make decisions and take action exclusively on the basis of private sector criteria. What this means for municipalities is best illustrated by the case of the energy giant RWE. The complete integration of RWE Gas in the company is resulting in 46 municipal shareholders being bought out and handing over their shares to the "multi-utility enterprise" by 2009 at a cost of ?1.14 billion. These (former) stakeholders are sacrificing a considerable chunk of their municipal economy.

The extent of the challenge faced by municipalities in terms of quantity as a result of the increasing number of global players can be gleaned from tables 1-3. There are, however, also numerous qualitative issues. They include the danger of undercutting competition by creating dominant positions within markets. Local consumers are not the only potential victims. Small and medium-sized enterprises are also at risk. The issue of a global order policy offering more than a laissez-faire approach needs addressing. A transnational competition policy reaching beyond the European Union is required which represents all (including social) interests while seeking to maintain regulatory and order principles of competition, i.e. augments the observed disembedding of companies with re-embedding.

Table 1: The 10 largest German industrial, service and trading companies in 2003

Ranking

Company

2003 turnover in million euros

Percentage change in turnover

2003 surplus in million euros

Employees in 2003 (thousands)

Comments (1)

Industrial companies

  1.

Daimler Chrysler AG

136,437

-7.4

448.0

362.1

C

  2.

Volkswagen

87,153

0.2

1,118.0

336.8

C

  3.

Siemens

74,233

-11.6

2,445.0

417.0

C

  4.

E.ON AG

46,364

28.3

4,647.0

66.5

C

  5.

RWE AG

42,771 (2)

-1.6

936.0

127.0

C

  6.

BMW Group

41,525

-2.1

1,947.0

104.3

C

  7.

Robert Bosch GmbH

36,357

  3.9

1,100.0

229.4

W

  8.

Thyssen Krupp AG

36,137

-1.5

512.0

190.1

C

  9.

BASF-Gruppe

33,361

  3.6

976.0

87.2

C

10.

Bayer

28,567

-3.6

-1,361.0

115.4

C

Service companies

  1.

Deutsche Telekom AG

55,838

  4.0

1,253.0

251.3

C

  2.

Deutsche Post AG

40,017

  1.9

1,342.0

383.2

C

  3.

Deutsche Bahn AG

28,228

51.1

-245.0

242.8

C

  4.

TUI AG

19,215

-5.4

314.9

64.3

C

  5.

Bertelsmann AG

16,801

-8.3

208.0

73.2

C

  6.

Deutsche Lufthansa

15,957

-6.0

-978.0

93.2

C

  7.

Daimler Chrysler Gruppe (No. 1 among industrial companies)

14,037

-10.6

 

11.0

C

  8.

Thyssen Krupp Gruppe (No. 8 among industrial companies)

11,276

-1.3

 

38.5

C

  9.

Thüga-Gruppe (No. 11 among trading companies)

8,800 (3)

  4.8

338.0

16.5

O

10.

Vodafone D 2 GmbH

7,800 (4)

  5.0

 

  9.4

C

Trading companies

  1.

Metro AG

55,595

  4.0

571

198.0

C

  2.

Rewe-Gruppe

39,180

  4.7

 

192.6

O

  3.

Edeka Gruppe

31,160

  2.0

 

200.0

O

  4.

Aldi-Gruppe

30,867 (5)

10.2

 

200.0

O

  5.

Schwarz-Gruppe

29,534 (6)

18.1

 

80.0

O

  6.

Tengelmann (Welt)

26,630 (2)

 

 

183.6

W

  7.

Franz Haniel & Cie GmbH

23,038

  2.6

391.4

53.7

C

  8.

Phoenix Pharmahandel AG & Co. KG

16,165 (7)

  5.4

 

17.2

C

  9.

Karstadt Quelle-Konzern

15,270

-3.4

113.2

101.0

C

10.

Otto-Konzern

14,300 (8)

-4.6

 

55.0

C

Comments: 1 - C = Concern turnover, W = World turnover, O = Other turnover; 2 - No comparison possible due to short business year; 3 - 2003 surplus for Thüga AG; 4 - Concluded on 31 March 2004; 5 - Estimate; 6 - Kaufland and Lidl, estimate; 7 - Concluded on 31 January 2004; 8 - Concluded on 29 February 2004.
Source: Giersberg 2004 a: U 2.

Table 2: The 10 largest German insurance companies in 2003 according to contribution revenue

Ranking

Company

2003 contribution revenue in million euros

2003 percentage change in contribution revenue

2003 surplus in million euros

Employees in 2003 (thousands)

Comments (1)

  1.

Allianz Group

85,000

  2.8

2,398.0

173.8

C

  2.

Münchner Rück Gruppe

40,431

  1.0

-400

41.3

C

  3.

Talanx AG (2)

14,824

-0.8

337.7

  8.4

C

  4.

AMB Generali Holding

10,694

-0.4

  9.3

17.8

C

  5.

R+V Konzern (No. 5 among banks)

7,222

  7.8

44.2

10.9

C

  6.

Zürich Gruppe Deutschland

6,326

0.9

185.0

  6.4

C

  7.

Axa Konzern AG

6,264

-2.4

571.0

  9.2

C

  8.

Debeka Versicherungen

5,731

  8.3

85.6

13.3

C

  9.

Versicherungskammer Bayern

4,864

  7.3

44.0

  5.9

C

10.

Signal Iduna Gruppe

4,365

  5.1

53.1

  8.0

O

Comments: 1 - C = Concern turnover, O = Other turnover; 2 - Previously HDI-Konzern.
Source: Giersberg 2004 a: U 2.

Table 3: The 10 largest German banks in 2003 according to overall balance sheet

Ranking

Company

2003 overall balance sheet in million euros

Percentage change in overall balance sheet

2003 surplus in million euros

Employees in 2003 (thousands)

Comments (1)

  1.

Deutsche Bank AG

803,614

  6.0

1,365.0

67.7

C

  2.

HVB Group

479,455

-30.6

-2,442.0

60.2

C

  3.

Dresdner Bank AG (No. 1 among insurance companies)

477,029

15.4

-1,978.0

42.1

C

  4.

Commerzbank AG

381,585

-9.6

-2,320.0

32.4

C

  5.

DZ Bank AG

331,723

-1.9

382.0

25.3

C

  6.

Landesbank Baden-Württemberg

322,795

0.7

595.8

12.6

C

  7.

KFW-Bankengruppe (2)

313,894

20.3

247.4

  3.7

C

  8.

Bayerische Landesbank

313,431

-8.2

316.6

  9.1

C

  9.

WestLB AG

256,244

-3.5

-1,897.4

  7.7

C

10.

Eurohypo AG

227,220

-0.5

29.9

  2.7

C

Comments: 1 - C = Concern turnover; 2 - Merger of KfW and Deutsche Ausgleichsbank.
Source: Giersberg 2004 a: U 2.

Municipalities are confronted with three main problems related to globalization.

  • The first problem results from global players outgrowing the scope of a nation-state's legal order. A multinational can adopt a number of techniques to escape the jurisdiction of its home country because it thinks and acts internationally. In such cases, public regulation and its enforcement are suppressed by the power of business. The municipalities alone are powerless to counter this development. The concept of inter- and transnationalization of the legal field (juridification) offers solace as an element of global governance. This involves various forms of governance at different decision-making levels, leading to an overall governance structure (Zangl/Zürn 2004, p. 14). The municipalities could be included in such a structure in the hope of raising predictability and justice in general economic and social relations.
  • The second problem has emerged because global players have built up worldwide networks of subsidiaries and bases. This enables them to shift goods, services, capital, technology and other resources at will across national borders. In contrast to companies with older structures, global players are much more mobile and under far less pressure to adapt to the local environment."Manufacturers with integrated global operations have perfected the art of central governance, extended their geographical reach and considerably accelerated investment and disinvestment rhythms. Although their departments and production facilities are not randomly dispersed around the world, the attachment of these sections to their respective locations is relatively loose" (Flecker 2000, p. 1).For example, in 2004 DaimlerChrysler AG threatened to shift production of the new C-Class from the traditional Mercedes-Benz factory in Sindelfingen to Bremen and South Africa to save costs. The plan was shelved when workers agreed to a pay cut. However, as in other cases, this does not change the limited attachment of the global player to the locality. This stands in direct contrast to municipalities' need for the greatest possible local commitment from the concerns.
  • The third problem is caused by global players' organizational and decision-making structures. Such companies are not subject to the same practical constraints as community leaders and local institutions. They are represented by an elite with its own values and resources. If company management executives ever get involved in municipal politics, they do not usually do so by accepting public appointments and hence responsibility to the electorate. On the contrary, firms tend to avoid this kind of publicity. Their top brass tend to pull the strings behind the scenes rather than act as public governors (Hahn et al. 1979, p. 65). Frequently, councils and local government abandon projects if they have even the slightest inkling that taking such decisions would displease companies and therefore cause difficulties or disadvantage municipalities. This happens even without companies exerting any pressure.

Accumulation of these problems raises the question of whether the relationship between local government and private business, between municipalities and global players is being turned on its head. While municipalities and their decision-makers - mayors and town councillors - have been democratically elected but have limited political leverage, global players and their managers appear to be omnipotent, although they have not been called upon to exercise authority. When this is the case, the primacy of politics is replaced by the primacy of business.

Many critics of globalization believe this to be happening now. A quote from the Erklärung von Kommunen zur Unterstützung von Attac Deutschland (Declaration of municipalities in support of Attac Germany):

"Globalization is causing upheaval of historic proportions. It is rapidly changing society and seriously affects our day-to-day lives. Thus far the process has been dominated by the economic interests of big business - banks, investment funds, transnational concerns and other purveyors of capital. Globalization's credo is neoliberalism. This ideology preaches that social problems are best resolved by letting markets and private enterprises decide" (Erklärung, no date, p. 1).

The report of the North Rhine-Westphalian parliament's Enquête Commission on the future of cities delivers a far more differentiated verdict on the impact of globalization on municipalities. The report concludes that cities' interests are by no means principally subordinate to those of global players. Instead, a state of cohabitation is assumed, which, when managed correctly, certainly gives municipalities autonomous leverage to act and take decisions without the influence of multinational companies (Bericht 2004, p. 63 ff.). Relevant literature from the social sciences is also increasingly adopting the premise that municipalities are not "going under" as a result of globalization. The global city approach, which argues from the perspective of structural change to the global community, emphasizes the growing need for companies to be embedded in localities if they are to maintain their capacity for worldwide operation, coordination and control. According to Saskia Sassen (2001, p. 18), this adds a previously neglected dimension to the debate on the power of big business and the capacity of new technology to overcome space and distance by introducing the concept of the global city with its specific focus on the business-oriented service sector. The urban regime theory also highlights municipalities' continuing, if not growing, significance. In contrast to the top-down perspective of the global city argument, this theory is based on a bottom-up approach. Consequently, this angle emphasizes social conflicts and the institutional environment, without which changes to the global community could never assume (socio-)spatial form. The theory incorporates the claim that cities and urban regions are more than just compliant puppets of capital, and that they deserve to be treated as active participants. The regulation theory makes similarly positive findings for municipalities. Markus Wissen (2001, p. 87 ff.) considers this theory to be the most suitable approach to examining local transformation processes in the era of globalization. Wissen believes that, if regulation theory can develop a state-theoretical component and abandon its fixation with the notion of stable national entities, it can provide insights into the importance of spatial regulatory processes and institutions, especially at a time in which barriers are falling and networks are expanding.

A 2004 Prognos survey of the 439 German Kreise (counties) and Kreisfreiestädte (towns and cities with Kreis status) revealed that the nation's global players are predominantly based in municipalities with "top future prospects", "very high future prospects" or "high future prospects". These findings suggest a dialectic rather than antagonistic relationship.(1) Of the 10 largest German industrial, service, trading and insurance companies respectively and the 10 largest German banks in 2003 (tables 1 - 3), nine were based in municipalities with top future prospects (up to 6th in the rankings), 18 were in municipalities with very high future prospects (from 7th - 23rd in the rankings), and 11 were in municipalities with high future prospects (from 24th - 51st in the rankings). Thus the top management level of around two-thirds of the 50 largest German global players was located in municipalities which are national leaders in terms of strength and vitality (Prognos Zukunftsatlas 2004). It is worth noting that just a small number of cities and urban regions served as bases for these companies. 37 of the 57 officially quoted headquarters (some global players have several) were distributed across just eight municipalities. Munich (9) and Frankfurt/Main (8) were the most favoured cities, followed by Düsseldorf (4), Essen (4), Hamburg (3) and Cologne (3). These municipalities belong to a category of cities which are characterized as "fully grown" in international comparisons. They are distinguished by respectable economic growth, but as a rule also by stagnating or sinking populations, ageing yet well-qualified "human capital", the tendency for inhabitants (particularly from the middle classes) to move to the outskirts, a sharp increase in the number of "single households", mounting labour market problems for non-skilled workers and a widening gap between rich and poor (Hall/Pfeiffer 2000, p. 12 and 22 ff.). However, these generalizations do not eliminate considerable differences between cities. This is illustrated when we divide the aforementioned municipalities into subgroups to compare their development. Here we shall distinguish between metropolises, Ruhr cities and other cities with over 500,000 inhabitants. With the exception of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, all of these places are home to at least one of the 50 top German global players.

The metropolises - Berlin, Hamburg, Munich und Frankfurt/Main - were characterized by steady population levels between 1992 and 2000, but also by a fall in their share of net output and jobs. Since Frankfurt/Main, Munich and Hamburg achieved high net output gains, this overall picture is largely due to Berlin's sluggish economic growth.

The situation in the Ruhr cities, the old industrial centres, is entirely different. Essen, Dortmund and Duisburg are all succeeding in implementing the necessary restructuring measures. The three cities must nevertheless contend with the Prognos AG analysis, which places them in the rather unsatisfactory "balanced mix of chances and risks" category. Between 1996 and 2000, figures for the Ruhr cities relating to population, wage earners and salaried employees and net output developed more or less in tune with total growth in all major German cities for the first time. Essen climbed to 121st place in the overall rankings of all Kreise (counties) and cities with Kreis status. Dortmund also has every reason to be optimistic. The "Dortmund project", initiated by the council and local authorities, Thyssen Krupp AG and the consultants McKinsey & Company, has evidently succeeded in uniting local government and business to unleash real future potential.

Table 4: Global players and rankings of their municipal locations, taking as examples the 10 largest German industrial, service and trading companies in 2003

Ranking

Company

Headquarters

Overall location ranking

Vitality location ranking

Strength location ranking

Industrial companies

  1.

Daimler Chrysler AG

Stuttgart

08

35

04

  2.

Volkswagen

Wolfsburg

09

01

54

  3.

Siemens

Munich

02

06

02

  4.

E.ON AG

Düsseldorf

18

22

17

  5.

RWE AG

Essen

121

259

78

  6.

BMW Group

Munich

02

06

02

  7.

Robert Bosch GmbH

Stuttgart

08

35

04

  8.

Thyssen Krupp AG

Duisburg, Essen

260, 121

225, 259

273, 78

  9.

BASF-Gruppe

Ludwigshafen

145

301

76

10.

Bayer

Leverkusen

49

120

36

Service companies

  1.

Deutsche Telekom AG

Bonn

36

79

29

  2.

Deutsche Post AG

Bonn

36

79

29

  3.

Deutsche Bahn AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  4.

TUI AG

Berlin, Hanover

262, 117

298, 269

208, 73

  5.

Bertelsmann AG

County of Gütersloh

94

106

106

  6.

Deutsche Lufthansa

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  7.

Daimler Chrysler Gruppe

Berlin

262

298

208

  8.

Thyssen Krupp Gruppe

Düsseldorf

18

22

17

  9.

Thüga-Gruppe

Munich

02

06

02

10.

Vodafone D 2 GmbH

Düsseldorf

18

22

17

Trading companies

  1.

Metro AG

Cologne

41

46

45

  2.

Rewe-Gruppe

Cologne

41

46

45

  3.

Edeka Gruppe

Hamburg

20

38

16

  4.

Aldi-Gruppe

Essen, Mühlheim/Ruhr

121, 176

259, 282

78, 115

  5.

Schwarz-Gruppe

Neckarsulm/ Heilbronn

54

33

82

  6.

Tengelmann (Welt)

Mühlheim/Ruhr

176

282

115

  7.

Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH

Duisburg

260

225

273

  8.

Phoenix Pharmahandel AG & Co. KG

Mannheim

57

77

53

  9.

Karstadt Quelle-Konzern

Essen

121

259

78

10.

Otto-Konzern

Hamburg

20

38

16

Sources: Giersberg, Georg 2004 a: U 2; Prognos Zukunftsatlas 2004 - Ergebnisübersicht Gesamtranking.

Table 5: Global players and rankings of their municipal locations, taking as examples the 10 largest German insurance companies in 2003 according to contribution revenue

Ranking

Company

Headquarters

Overall location ranking

Vitality location ranking

Strength location ranking

  1.

Allianz Group

Munich

02

06

02

  2.

Münchner Rück Gruppe

Munich

02

06

02

  3.

Talanx AG (1)

Hanover

117

269

73

  4.

AMB Generali Holding AG

Munich

02

06

02

  5.

R+V Konzern

Wiesbaden

34

75

27

  6.

Zürich Gruppe Deutschland

Bonn

36

79

29

  7.

Axa Konzern AG

Cologne

41

46

45

  8.

Debeka Versicherungen

Koblenz

146

287

88

  9.

Versicherungskammer Bayern

Munich

02

06

02

10.

Signal Iduna Gruppe

Dortmund, Hamburg

154, 20

83, 38

206, 16

Comments: 1 - Previously HDI-Konzern.
Sources: Giersberg, Georg 2004 a: U 2; Prognos Zukunftsatlas 2004 - Ergebnisübersicht Gesamtranking.

Table 6: Global players and rankings of their municipal locations, taking as examples the 10 largest German banks in 2003 according to overall balance sheet

Ranking

Company

Headquarters

Overall location ranking

Vitality location ranking

Strength location ranking

  1.

Deutsche Bank AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  2.

HVB Group

Munich

02

06

02

  3.

Dresdner Bank AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  4.

Commerzbank AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  5.

DZ Bank AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  6.

Landesbank Baden-Württemberg

Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, Mannheim

08, 29, 57

35, 132, 77

04, 32, 53

  7.

KFW-Bankengruppe (1)

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

  8.

Bayerische Landesbank

Munich

02

06

02

  9.

WestLB AG

Düsseldorf, Münster

18, 38

22, 31

17, 48

10.

Eurohypo AG

Frankfurt/Main

11

15

12

Comments: 1 Merger between KfW and Deutsche Ausgleichsbank.
Sources: Giersberg, Georg 2004 a: U 2; Prognos Zukunftsatlas 2004 - Ergebnisübersicht Gesamtranking.

Table 7: Regional distribution of demographic and economic indicators for groups of large German cities with over 500,000 inhabitants - 1992, 1996 and 2000

 

Inhabitants

Wage earners and salaried employees

Gross value added

1992

1996

2000

1992

1996

2000

1992

1996

2000

%

Metropolises (1)

58.6

58.8

58.8

57.8

58.1

57.4

56.7

58.1

57.0

Ruhr cities (2)

14.7

14.5

14.4

11.1

11.1

11.1

10.8

10.2

10.1

Other cities (3)

26.7

26.6

26.8

31.1

30.8

31.5

32.4

31.7

33.0

All large cities

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

Comments: 1 = Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt/Main; 2 = Essen, Dortmund, Duisburg; 3 = Cologne, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Bremen, Hanover.
Source: Münzenmaier 2002.

Table 8: Inhabitants, gross value added, employees subject to social security contributions and welfare recipients in large German cities

City

Inhabitants

Gross value added at 2001 manufacturing prices

Employees subject to social security contributions

Welfare recipients per 100 inhabitants at the end of 2002

As of 31 December 2002

Trend (1)

Total in million euros

Per inhabitant in euros

Per wage earner/salaried employee in euros

On 30 June 2002

Trend (2)

Berlin

3,392,425

^^

70,965

20,964

45,669

1,103,800

^^

  7.4

Hamburg

1,728,806

^^

69,125

40,166

65,697

768,700

v

  7.0

Munich

1,234,692

^^

59,301

48,605

63,435

694,600

v

  3.5

Cologne

968,639

^

36,825

38,143

58,510

466,500

^^

  5.8

Frankfurt/Main

643,726

-

43,630

67,796

72,784

487,700

v

  6.1

Dortmund

590,831

-

14,360

24,365

51,671

195,700

vv

  4.8

Stuttgart

588,477

-

29,400

50,215

64,218

355,500

vv

  3.9

Essen

585,481

v

16,717

28,147

54,671

218,900

v

  6.5

Düsseldorf

571,886

-

33,734

59,143

73,427

352,300

v

  4.8

Hanover

517,310

-

49,211

.

48,566

280,200

vv

  7.4

Duisburg

508,664

v

11,177

21,973

.

155,900

vv

  5.5

Comments: 1 - Change in population since 31 December 2000: ^^ = Increase of more than 10,000 inhabitants; ^ = Increase of between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, - = Increase/decrease of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants; v = Decrease of between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants. 2 - Change in the number of employees subject to social security contributions since 30 June 1991: ^^ = Increase of more than 10,000 employees subject to social security contributions; ^ = Increase of between 5,000 and 10,000 employees subject to social security contributions; - = Increase/decrease of fewer than 5,000 employees subject to social security contributions , v = Decrease of between 5,000 and 10,000 employees subject to social security contributions; vv = Decrease of more than 10,000 employees subject to social security contributions.
Sources: German Association of Towns and Cities 1992 and 2002, internet reports.

The remaining large cities - Cologne, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Bremen and Hanover - recorded a slight increase in the percentage of wage earners and salaried employees and of gross value added between 1992 and 2000. Their share in the national population remained stable.

A look at the smaller municipalities in Germany reveals that the presence or absence of a global player there certainly does not dictate the level of prosperity in a town or city. By no means does the municipality/global player symbiosis automatically create a "win-win" situation. A "lose-lose" situation is also possible. This may be due to structural changes brought about by the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism and the shift from an industrial to a knowledge and information society. In each case the effect on municipalities and companies is different, and developments do not inevitably mirror one another.

Wolfsburg is a very special example. To date the presence of a global player has undoubtedly benefited both the city and the region. The 2004 Prognos future analysis named Wolfsburg Germany's most dynamic city. The public private partnership with Volkswagen was praised as exemplary and identified as the reason why the city had successfully managed to "diversify structurally and economically in the midst of an economic downturn and become less dependent on automobile manufacture" (Schnellecke, no date).

However, this is not a guarantee for the future, as has been demonstrated during the recent fight against job cuts at Volkswagen.

The relationship between the city of Jena and the electronics and optics manufacturer Carl Zeiss is also positive. The know-how of the company, which operates in 15 locations around the world, has recently conjured up a small economic miracle in Jena, although this has not allayed labour market concerns in the region. Prognos AG therefore ranked Jena 24th in its survey of the 439 German counties (Kreise) and cities with Kreis status with respect to demographics, labour market resources, competition and innovation, highlighting the municipality's "high future prospects".

Münster, the Westphalian administrative metropolis and university city, is proof that even the loss of a company with global presence does not necessarily lead to a city's or region's demise. The Westdeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, a commercial and investment bank, has headquarters in Münster and Düsseldorf, but in recent decades has increasingly concentrated its operations in the latter city following pressure from the EU to restructure. Münster has essentially been left with only LBS Westdeutsche Landesbausparkasse, a building society which was previously a branch of operations within Westdeutsche Landesbank. Despite this shift, Prognos AG rated the city's future prospects as above average.

Ulm provides a good illustration of the development options open to a city other than attracting a heavyweight global player to locate there. In the past few years Ulm has undergone a remarkable transformation from economic basket case to centre of science. The development of the rural county of Vechta is another noteworthy example. Thanks to an established branch mix, it is currently one of the strongest economic regions north of the Main river.

Despite the caution which must be exercised when evaluating the relationship between municipalities and global players, there is no doubt that a kind of symbiotic coexistence is formed wherever the two come together and "use" a common location. This says nothing about the nature of this relationship, particularly regarding the way in which local government and business overcome their "natural differences" resulting from diverging interests, objectives, mindsets and approaches to work. Therefore it is worth considering the options available (Bellers 1990, p. 81 f.):

  • If economic factors are perceived as the main reason for a society's social and political development, the power of companies, and certainly of global players, almost inevitably overrides municipalities' capacity for decision-making and action. In this case the friction between municipal policies and business management can only be overcome by giving due consideration to this distribution of power and the predominance of business.
  • However, if politics is assumed to have the upper hand over business, then municipalities play an autonomous role in formulating and realizing local and regional community objectives. In this case cities and urban regions are certainly able to make binding decisions at their own discretion, and are by no means at the mercy of business and global players.
  • Last but not least, the capitalist market economy and local government can be seen as elements in a general socio-historical process. Municipalities and global players are equally involved in this process. For this reason, although both sides are urged to act individually, they are not completely free in their decision-making because of their mutual dependence. Which side will emerge as the victor in conflicts cannot be predicted with any certainty. There is no clear answer to the question of power distribution.

The last approach appears increasingly plausible in the era of globalization. Denationalization and dispersion of power are just as much a part of the transformation of the global community as the breaking down of barriers and the establishment of networks (Robert 2003, p. 21 ff.). The notion of a "new mediaevalism" (Anderson 1995, p. 65 ff.), in which citizens divide their loyalties between territorial state systems and other authorities (of local or global nature), is a fitting one. The response to this challenge, as discussed elsewhere, is governance. This is actually a liberal decision-making concept, based on the double paradigm of market economy and democracy. Governance essentially incorporates "formal institutions and systems of authority possessing executive powers, as well as informal rules agreed between people and institutions or judged by them to be in their own interests" (Stiftung Entwicklung und Frieden 1995, p. 4 ff.).

This polypolistic view of the different camps, which also assumes the existence of multiple decision-making structures, accurately depicts the relationship between municipalities and global players. Of course cities and municipalities are not in a position to make ideological decisions for or against the market economy and the "capitalist system". In equal measure, global players are part of an international order - their critics might say disorder - which they alone cannot overturn. In any case, the actual conditions which determine the relationship between local government and business, between municipalities and global players, are so variable that a general conclusion of the type "the one side is subordinate to the other" is impossible. Despite the obvious difference between local government and the private sector in Germany, the country's decentralized political system, which subscribes to the principle of subsidiarity, has given rise to a multilateralist culture of cooperation. This varies from case to case, and depends to a large extent on municipalities' and companies' respective interests.

In this context it is crucial to remember that no two global players are alike. Companies running global operations are characterized by individual structures and pursue very different strategies. It was long believed that the centralization of decision-making processes and the mobility of capital were the main explanations for the unshakeable dominance of global concerns over local institutions and players (Flecker 2000, p. 1). This theory is being increasingly eroded by the insight that locations possess power too (Sennett 1998, p. 188; Sassen 2001, p. 10 ff.; Wissen 2001, p. 76 ff.). Advocates of such a view draw their vindication from the different organizational forms adopted by companies. Vertically integrated, centrally governed global players are generally distinguished by worldwide standardization and labour division. McDonald's has come to epitomize this type of business. Such companies decide how to act and where to do business primarily on the basis of relative costs and market access. They are generally not open to influence from municipalities. The same is not true of global players made up of units which enjoy relative economic autonomy in terms of markets, local resources and political relations. The local management of such businesses does not just implement policies dictated by company headquarters, but also functions as a local player which, in extreme circumstances, can even attempt to form coalitions with local stakeholders to impose its will on the company's central management. Potential power resulting from variable company structures and strategies such as internal labour division, partnerships and management systems certainly has an impact on the relationships between municipalities and global players (Flecker 2000, p. 18 ff.).

The view of many global companies on how they should interact with municipalities in Germany is reflected in numerous declarations on joint social responsibility. Siemens believes that every company is obliged to contribute to the community. Its own approach, "corporate citizenship", contains an additional remarkable aspect: "Our target is a win-win situation for all partners. It is not a matter of welfare and social assistance but of benefits to all participants, including the company itself" (Siemens AG 2004).

This statement unmistakably identifies the overriding priority: the company's interests. Volkswagen's stance on corporate social responsibility does not differ greatly from this. The car manufacturer's first concern is successful market presence. However, it also sees itself as a partner of politics and society, prepared to foster dialogue in all regions where it is active. How the company intends to do this is as illuminating as it is succinct: "As the automobile industry undergoes a structural transformation, we are taking responsibility for the regions in which we operate" (Volkswagen AG 2004). Volkswagen does not address the fact that this responsibility lies with elected political representatives rather than a handful of entrepreneurs or managers. The general picture reveals that global players are not (and cannot be) primarily motivated by philanthropic considerations, but by their own specific interests, based on the shareholder value principle. Yet these do not necessarily clash with local interests. Indeed, they frequently overlap. BASF depicts the situation thus: "The surroundings of our locations play an important role in our success. We cannot operate effectively without the trust and support of our neighbours. We are therefore working in all our branches to gain recognition as a reliable partner and attractive employer which embraces its social responsibility (quoted in: Giersberg 2004 b, U 3).

Meanwhile, cities and urban regions are forced to do all they can to create suitable conditions for businesses which subsequently benefit the area as a whole. They must do this if they are to continue exploiting the "power of location" referred to earlier. The translation of urbanization, well advanced in Germany, into economic progress, its adjustment to accommodate environmentally sustainable forms of development and the limitation of social discrimination are central tasks for local decision-makers. The information revolution is drawing cities and urban regions into more and more complex global systems of mutual dependence and influence. This creates a new form of international labour division which functions on a municipal basis (Hall/Pfeiffer 2000, p. 7).

The magic formula for cities and urban regions in the 21st century is business promotion. This is anything but a traditional field of municipal activity. It is, however, an essential component in tackling the tensions between local government and the private sector in the long run, given the growing mutual dependence resulting from the culture of cooperation referred to earlier. Many municipalities have long since recognized the importance of business promotion by giving their mayors personal responsibility for it. The German Association of Towns and Cities speaks of the need to form an alliance between industry and municipal politics. The Association has identified two key fields of activity (German Association of Towns and Cities 2003, p. 84 ff.):

  • The first area concerns the run-up to local business promotion. Business associations and municipal lobby groups must coordinate their influence on local business promotion policy conditions. Such conditions are largely established beyond the boundaries of the cities and urban regions, through tax and labour market policy and non-wage labour costs. The association favours the drafting of common positions and strategies because they are in the joint interest of municipalities and companies (even global players).
  • The second field of activity directly concerns local business promotion, referred to in modern parlance as city marketing. The objective is the holistic strategic development of municipalities, which seeks proximity to industry rather than separation from it. City marketing is integrated urban development policy which aims to improve an area's attractiveness for businesses, but also to raise the quality of life for inhabitants and appeal to visitors and to make local government and politics more efficient (Robert 2002, p. 1 f.).

Despite a persistent tangible distance between local government and the private sector and despite frequently diverging interests, in the era of globalization municipalities and companies are more dependent on each other than ever before. Both camps must recognize and realize their potential to collaborate whenever there is common ground. This involves the conscious creation of innovation networks, which in terms of worldwide competition allow the establishment of cluster-specific local competitive advantages (Messner/Meyer-Stamer 1993, S. 100 ff.). In particular, the differentiated competences necessary for certain value-added chains must be locally bundled and linked together through various formal and informal exchange processes (Enquête Commission 2004, p. 65). This requires extending the current spectrum of municipal business promotion. As recently as the 1970s, the focus was still on making industrial sites available, developing infrastructure to support the economy, introducing new companies to the area and relocating existing ones. Following the transition to a knowledge and information society, the key fields of activity are now technology promotion and transfer, risk capital, the founding of new businesses, the generation shift in industrial plants, schooling and other education options, culture and leisure and, last but not least, a business-friendly environment.

Since the relationship between cities and urban regions on the one hand and companies (including global players) on the other varies from one example to the next, the necessary cooperation between them must always consider the prevailing conditions. In the past this has led to varying distributions of power between municipalities and global players. Things will not change in future. Munich, the capital of Bavaria, is home to over a million people and boasts the largest insurance industry in Germany by far, so its dealings with global players active in the city are bound to have a different emphasis to, say, Wolfsburg's relationship with Volkswagen. Despite diversifying the local business environment, the automobile city in Lower Saxony is still best depicted by the saying, "What's good for the (Volkswagen) plant is good for the city" (Tessin, no date, p. 1 ff.). The municipality of Neckarsulm is in a different situation again. Although only 27,500 people live in the town, there are around 29,000 jobs. The Schwarz-Gruppe, Germany's fifth largest trading company with over 500 branches, is based there. However, Neckarsulm's largest employer is Audi AG with 13,500 jobs. These selected examples confirm the divergences in the relationships between municipalities and global players. Flexibility is absolutely essential when tackling tensions between local government and businesses active in a region. Both municipalities and the companies depend on it if their collaboration is to bear fruit.

 

Notes

(1) The conclusions on future prospects are based predominantly on four determinants: demographics, labour market, competition & information and welfare & social situation. Indicators on the basis of actual data were used to calculate an index of "strength", while data describing changes over time were combined in an index of "vitality". The weighted sum of these two partial indexes constitutes the future ranking. For details see www.prognos.com/zukunftsatlas (back)

 

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